Friday, October 11, 2013

Updates on ACX and Goodreads, Thoughts on Freebies

By Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

I thought I’d give an update on both the audiobook platform that I started doing this spring and the promo efforts that I’ve made for the past few months.  Maybe it can give some of you ideas for expanding your content’s reach or for marketing it.
ACX—Still steady income for the $0 I put into the process.  Readers are requesting that more books go to audio (several readers wrote that they’re losing their eyesight and can only “read” via audio). I hate admitting that I don’t have the audio rights for the traditionally published books and that I find it less-likely that my publisher will put them on audiobook.
This time, as soon as the latest of my self-published books was published, I immediately put the book up for audition on ACX.  Now I’m already at the point of reviewing the finished audio.  It’s moved things through a bit faster. Thanks to Lia Frederick for narrating.
Free books. I believe that the single, most effective thing I do to move books is to keep one of them free.  I keep one of my titles free at all times by listing it as free on Smashwords and allowing Amazon to price-match it.  I consider it advertising and it’s the only form of real reader-focused promo that I do…except for Goodreads giveaways, which I’ll mention next. I do think, however, that this is probably a better practice for writers who have several or more books out.
I’ve found that the freebie also seems to result in sales for my trad-published titles, even though they’re higher-priced than my self-pubbed books.  My royalty checks have been higher as my self-pubbed sales have grown…even for the books I’ve written under a pen name.  I think that Amazon does a good job putting my other books in front of the readers.  I don’t think that Barnes & Noble does nearly as good of a job in cross-promoting my other titles.
I’ve noticed that although free promos always work well to keep my other books visible, they do especially well if the freebie is one that has lots of reviews.  It’s almost as if the readers are looking at the number of reviews and not the reviews themselves—one of the books that was recently free has 236 reviews.  But its giveaway was not quite as successful as a freebie for another of my titles that has 446 reviews, even though I think the one with fewer reviews probably has more favorable reviews.
So…what does this mean?  I’m wondering if it means that readers can be influenced by sheer numbers—an “everyone is reading it” mentality.  Even subconsciously. 
Goodreads. On that same thread (trying to get reviews), I received a box of ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) a few weeks ago for the book that’s coming out in December.  I was a little surprised to get them, since I don’t always get them except for the first book in a series.  My editor’s assistant asked me how many ARCs I wanted.  The idea these days is to get as many reviews on the upcoming release as possible.  I think, before online retailing became such a huge thing, that ARCs usually went out to various print reviewers…then bloggers, when blogging reviewers became popular.  Now it seems to be readers. I asked the assistant for 18 ARCs for a Goodreads giveaway.
I’ve noticed that giving away ARCs on Goodreads sometimes makes traditionally-published authors a little nervous.  This is because sometimes signed ARCs end up being sold online on eBay…even before the release.  I’ve heard writers talking about it.  It’s against the Goodreads rules, but pirating, etc., has never seemed to hurt me or my sales.
The giveaway for the December book had a good response…Goodreads reported that 1310 people entered it and I had 16 winners, keeping two of the ARCs in case one got lost in the mail or some other problem.  I’ve found that a good approach seems to be to send a message to the winners –you can click on their link when Goodreads sends you the list of winners.  You congratulate them, tell them when you’ll send the books out (I hear that you can get one-stars on Goodreads for not being prompt), and possibly even give them your other contact info so that they can email you or Facebook you, or whatever.  It makes you a bit more human, more friendly—instead of just a calculated giveaway.  I don’t ask for reviews when I send my note, but several readers wrote me back this time (a few on my email instead of using Goodreads) and said that they were excited to have won and planned to write reviews. 
As I’ve mentioned before, I personally don’t find Goodreads a particularly warm and fuzzy environment for writers, so I just pop in, do my giveaway thing, and pop out again.  You don’t have to hang out there to do giveaways…you can tweak your settings so that Goodreads notifies you via email when they’ve picked the winners. You do have to have a physical book for a giveaway there…they don’t give away ebooks.  But your books don’t have to be traditionally published to be entered, either—CreateSpace or Lightning Source works fine.
So, that’s about it for how things are going for audio and promotion—and what works for now.  Being flexible is good in this business…what works one month may not work the next.  We should just be prepared to change course.
What have you found that’s worked promo-wise lately?  Any thoughts about Goodreads giveaways?  Anyone doing ACX?